2009 No3 Oreshkina Russian Integration 12

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					INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF SPECIAL EDUCATION                                          Vol 24 No 3 2009




                    EDUCATION OF CHILDREN WITH DISABILITIES IN RUSSIA:
                        ON THE WAY TO INTEGRATION AND INCLUSION

                                              Maria Oreshkina
                                             University of Scranton

         This paper presents an overview of the current situation with integration and inclusion in
         Russia. It explores the challenges of special education and legislation. It provides some
         examples of integration and inclusion initiatives and discusses them as examples of social
         transformations in post-Soviet Russia. The study concludes that the world trend towards
         inclusive schools has impacted the post-Soviet Russia and an attempt to narrow the gap
         between special and regular education has been made by non-governmental
         organizations, individual schools, and the formal system. More decisive and synergetic
         effort is required from the state as well as individuals to develop and implement a well
         defined policy that supports inclusion and equity education for all.

The socio-political reforms of the 1990s in Russia gave the impetus to the integration and inclusion
movement. The spirit of pluralism quickly spread throughout the post-soviet society, as more and more
marginalized groups became vocal about their difficult conditions and violations of their human rights.
Among these groups were parents of children with disabilities supported by progressive educators and
human rights activists who sought solutions to the problem of segregated or no education for this group
of children, especially children with severe or multiple disabilities. Russia's signing of international
agreements supporting the rights of children with disabilities, along with the developing cooperation of
the research and educational community abroad were among the other factors that contributed to
further development of the movement.

Special education international discourse lacks information about inclusion and integration in Russia.
Some studies dealt with the history and trends of special education in the late 1990s (Grigorenko, 1998;
Korkunov, Nigayev, Reynolds, & Lerner, 1998; Malofeev, 1998). More recently, studies addressed the
perception (Agran & Boykov, 2003) and training of special education teachers (Judge & Oreshkina,
2004). The latest information is virtually unavailable to English-speaking audience. It is the intent of
this paper to fill this gap and to examine the development of integration and inclusion practices within
the context of contemporary Russia. The examination of these practices is based on the analysis of
Russian educational literature, legal documents, and World Wide Web resources.

In the beginning, few terms require clarification. In international literature, many authors distinguish
between integration and inclusion (Ainscow, 1998; Avramidis & Norwich, 2002; Sebba & Ainscow,
1996). Integration is described as an ‘assimilationist’ process, when the placement of the child
depends on his/her ability to fit a largely unchanged schools environment (Avramidis & Norwich,
2002, p. 131). The practice of integration implies a continuum of children’s participation in regular
schools to the extent that is appropriate to their particular needs and circumstances (Avramidis &
Norwich, 2002, p. 131). Inclusion involves a restructuring of mainstream schooling that every school
can accommodate every child irrespective of disability (Avramidis & Norvich, 2002, p. 131). The
inclusion movement has gained its impetus with the passing of The Salamanca statement and
framework for action (UNESCO, 1994) which stated that those with special educational needs must
have access to regular schools which should accommodate them within a child-centered pedagogy
capable of meeting these needs (p. viii). It is important to note that the practice of inclusion implies
changes and alterations for all children, not only for children with disabilities.

In Russia, the term integration entered public and pedagogical discourse in the early 1990s and until
recently this term has been more familiar and widely used. Nazarova (1998) defined integration as a
process, result and condition when invalids [a term for individuals with severe disabilities] and other



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individuals with disabilities are not socially desegregated or isolated but participate in all spheres and
forms of social life together (equally) with others (p. 262). The term inclusion is also gaining
acceptance and discussions about the differences between the two have emerged in scholarly literature
(Furyaeva, 2006; Groznaya, 2006). These discussions are largely based on North American and
European literature and repeat similar themes. In the paper, the term integration or inclusion will be
used depending on which term was used in a corresponding source. In the discussion of education in
less segregated environments in general, the expression integration and inclusion practices or initiatives
will be used.

Children with disabilities are another term that requires clarification. State legislation distinguishes
between children with disabilities and children with severe disabilities or invalids. The law On Social
Protection of the Disabled (Invalids) in Russian Federation (1995) states that a person with a severe
disability is the one who has health problems with stable dysfunction of the body as a result of
illnesses, injuries, and disabilities that result in limited life activity and require his/her social protection
(article 1). The statistics on children with severe disabilities is often reported separately and the law On
Social Protection of the Disabled outlines additional services for the severely disabled. In this paper,
the term children with disabilities will be used to describe all children who are qualified for special
education services and the term children with severe disabilities will be used to describe children who
are qualified as children-invalids.

The first section of the paper will describe the context of integration and inclusion including current
characteristics of Russian education, special education, and special education legislation. The second
section will provide examples of integration and inclusion. The third section will discuss integration
and inclusion as examples of social transformations in the post-Soviet Russia. The conclusion will
summarize the findings of the study and formulate its implications for policy and practice.

Context of Integration and Inclusion in Russia
Current Characteristics of Russian Education
As of 2009, Russia has population of approximately 140 million people (Central Intelligence Agency,
2009). As of January 1, 2005, there were 29 million children in Russia age 0 – 18; 20 million of them
lived in urban areas and 9 million - in rural areas (Federation Council, 2006). The literacy rate,
according to the 2002 Census data, is 99.4% (Central Intelligence Agency, 2009).

Russian system of education includes four levels: preschool education, general education, vocational
education, and higher education. Preschool education (further referred to as preschools) consists of
nursery schools and kindergartens for children of age 2 through ages six or seven and is not
compulsory. It includes more than 50,000 institutions and has an enrollment of almost 4.5 million
children or approximately 56% of all children population of this age (Statistics of Russian Education,
2009a). General education is represented by elementary education (age six or seven – 10), basic
secondary education (10 – 15), and upper secondary education (15 – 17or18). Secondary education is
compulsory for all citizens of Russia. There are about 67, 000 institutions of general education with
approximately 20 million students, age six-seven through 17-18. About 81% of children of the school
age population attend schools (Statistics of Russian Education, 2009b). The formal statistics identify
1.6 million children who require special education (Volosovets, 2003).

The reforms of the 1980s and 1990s had a multifarious impact on education. On the one hand, they
initiated democratization of school life and brought positive changes in educational governance,
curriculum, and instruction. As a result, regional educational authorities and school administrations
gained more power in decision-making that allowed them to promote integration and inclusion on
regional, municipal, and school levels. On the other hand, these reforms led to a dramatic economic and
social stratification of the society. Funding of schools - except the institutions with a federal status –
became the responsibility of local authorities and/or subjects of federation. Different degrees of
economic prosperity of the regions and the commitment of local authorities to education are
responsible for unequal expenditures on education, special education, and the development and
implementation of innovations. On the level of individual families, households with higher incomes
can afford better health care for pay and additional educational opportunities through private teachers,
tutors, and professionals. Maintaining quality education for all, regardless of families’ income or place
of residence, has become one of the biggest challenges of the post-Soviet Russia.




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Special Education in Transition
The formal organization of special education has changed little since the fall of the Soviet Union and is
represented by eight types of schools: special preschools, schools, and boarding schools, as well as
special groups and classes in regular preschools and schools (Government of Russian Federation,
1997). These institutions enroll children with eight types of disabilities: deafness, hearing impaired and
late onset deafness, blindness, partial blindness and late onset blindness, speech impaired, physically
disabled, temporary delay in mental development, and mental retardation. The term a temporary delay
in mental development refers to a group of children who do not perform to the level of their peers but
can eventually catch up if appropriate remedial education is provided (Grigorenko, 1998). The formal
system does not distinguish learning disability as a separate category. Children with multiple
disabilities are also not distinguished as a separate category and one has to be diagnosed with one of the
eight disabilities to be qualified for special education services.

The composition of the special education system is well demonstrated by data available from 1998-99
academic year (UNESCO, 2000). On a preschool level, it was mainly represented by special preschools
or special groups in regular preschools for children with speech impairments (Table 1). I
                                                 Table 1
                    Institutions for Children with Disabilities on Preschool Level
 Types of institutions/group                                                   Number of schools
 For speech impairments                                                        6,024
 For tubercular intoxication                                                   831
 For visual impairments                                                        531
 For physical disabilities                                                     382
 For mental disabilities                                                       259
 For hearing disabilities                                                      107
 Other profiles                                                                336
 Total number of institutions                                                  8,470
 Total number of students                                                      ~352,000

According to the same data, on a general school level, most institutions were for children with mental
retardation and a temporary delay in mental development and placement in boarding schools (internats)
significantly prevailed placement in schools (Table 2).
                                                Table 2.
                  Institutions for Children with Disabilities on General School Level
Types of institutions                      Total number Schools                Boarding schools
                                           of schools                          (internats)
For the mentally retarded                       1,408             349                 1,059
For the deaf                                     86                8                    78
For the hearing impaired and late onset          83                10                   73
deafness
For the blind                                    17                2                    15
For the seeing impaired and late onset           71                17                   54
blindness
For the speech impaired                          60                9                    51
For the physically disabled                      65                11                   44
For the temporary delayed in mental              101               50                   51
development
All types of institutions                       1,905             456                 1,425
All types of students                         281,218                                201,514

A comparison of Tables 1 and 2 shows a significant decrease in institutions for children with speech
impairments and an increase in institutions for children with mental retardation and a temporary delay
as children finish preschool and enter general education level. The first trend suggests that most
children with speech impairments receive efficient intervention during preschool years and become
successfully integrated in regular schools. The second trend demonstrates that most children with
mental retardation and a delay in mental development are identified at the start of formal schooling.

Until now, special education institutions on both the preschool and general educational levels have had
the most qualified special education teachers. Education in these schools is based on specialized



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programs developed for each category of students; it is highly individualized and many schools enjoy
low teacher-student ratio (Kulagina, 2007; Malofeev & Shmatko, 2008). Despite these attainments, the
availability and quality of special education remains its most pressing problems (Kulagina, 2007).

According to the most recent data, 1.6 million children in the Russian Federation, or 4.5%, require
special education (Volosovets, 2003). The same author reported that on the preschool level, 352,900
children attend special education groups and preschools and 63.6% of them regularly interact with their
peers. On the general educational level, 277,700 children attend special education institutions; 203,000
children are educated in special education classes in regular schools; 34,000 children receive education
at home; 2,500 children attend regular classes; and 2,500 children, who require long-term medical
supervision, receive education in sanatoriums, special long-term stay schools with medical supervision.
Volosovets also stated that overall, 38% of all children with disabilities are integrated in regular
settings. To summarize, out of the 1.6 million children who require special education, 872,600 receive
education either in special or regular settings. It is not clear what education the remaining 727, 400
children receive. It is possible that this figure includes children of preschool age who do not attend any
educational institutions, as well as children who are labeled uneducable. Separate statistics on children
with severe disabilities show that there were 554, 867 children with severe disabilities of ages 0 – 15,
according to the 2000 year data, and only a half of them, 236, 000 children, received education in
regular and special education or home settings (Statistics of Russian Education, 2009b).

Between 1980 and 2003, 393 new schools opened, while the population of students decreased by
12,700, reflecting the country's decreasing population and low birth rate (Kulagina, 2007). Despite the
increasing number of special education schools and a decreasing number of students, the system still
fails to meet the demands of those who require its services. In addition, not all types of special
education institutions are available in children’s places of residence. Volosovets noted that only 20 out
of 83 subjects of the Russian Federation have all eight types of special institutions (as cited in
Kulagina, 2007). As a result, many children have no access to those institutions or have to leave their
families in order to attend schools located away from their homes. When parents do not want to send
their children far away and keep them at home, these children are often turned away from their local
schools or attend them without the provision of special education services.

New institutions have been established disproportionately. From 1980 through 2003 the number of
institutions for children with a temporary delay in mental development increased 33 percent (Kulagina,
2007). During the same period, the number of schools for children with physical, visual, and auditory
disabilities has grown slowly or even decreased. The need for substantial investment in school
construction, equipment, and maintenance accounts for the slow growth of these schools, affecting their
availability to those who require their services.

The lack of qualified teachers undermines the quality of special education. Only 10% of teachers in
special schools have a degree in special education. The situation in regular schools is even more
challenging (Kulagina, 2007). The number of students in special classes of regular schools have
increased 3.8 times, from 53,000 in 1990 to 205,600 in 2003 (Kulagina, 2007) and most of these
students have a temporary delay in mental development (84%) or mental retardation (12.9%). The
majority of teachers do not have necessary qualifications to work with these students (Kulagina, 2007).
The lack of individual educational plans, special materials, and high teacher student ratio exacerbates
the problem. While some regions have found strategies of successful integration of special classes in
regular schools, the mechanism of providing quality education in the system as a whole does not exist
yet. Kulagina (2007) sadly described such situations as a seeming integration which results in an
increased number of students with disabilities in regular schools accompanied by a close-down of
special education institutions.

Problems of quality and availability of special education schools have been aggravated by the
atmosphere of loneliness and isolation that prevails there. In those conditions, students develop
secondary problems that they initially did not have. For example, Racheotes (1997) cited research
suppressed by the Soviet regime, which indicates that 85 percent of the visually impaired students
[from boarding schools] were made neurotic by their education (Section one, para 3). Special
education settings are often characterized by downward rather than upward movement when children,
once placed there, rarely move to more educationally advanced environments (Gerasimenko &
Dimenstein, 2000).




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The examination of the special education system reveals that the movement of integration and inclusion
takes place in conditions when the system, especially on its general education level, has been
experiencing serious problems. Access to special education services, quality of teachers’ cadres, and
atmosphere of exclusion and hopelessness are among the major challenges that the system has faced.
The lack of supportive legislation presents another problem.

Special Education Legislation
Development of legislation regulating integration and inclusion has been a lengthy process that has not
been finished yet. Russia adopted and ratified many international documents that protect rights of
people with disabilities including The Salamanca statement and framework for action (UNESCO,
1994). The practices of integration and inclusion have also been addressed in the state national
documents. For example, The national doctrine on education in Russian Federation (Government of
Russian Federation, 2000), a major state document on the development of education till the year 2025,
announces access to free general education and special education if necessary for children with
disabilities one of the goals of the state policy. The concept of modernization of Russian education till
the year of 2010 (Ministry of Education of Russian Federation, 2002a) emphasizes the necessity to
provide psychological, pedagogical, and medical support to children with disabilities. The document,
The main directions of the state social policy on improvement of situation of children in Russian
Federation till the year of 2010 (Interdepartmental Commission, 2002) discusses in greater detail the
measures to include children with disabilities into common educational space. Some of these measures
include provision of medical-psychological support in regular settings; de-institutionalization of
children with severe disabilities and conducting their rehabilitation at home; development of integration
practices; development of education for children who have not received education in the past;
restructuring of special boarding schools into consultation centers and short-term stay facilities;
development of professional training and the system of post-boarding schools adaptation; and
preparation of children with disabilities for family life and creation for them equal opportunities on the
labor market.

The language of the state documents supports integration and inclusion. These documents, however, do
not have the power of law. Human rights have to be regulated by law and only law, stated Smolin
(2007, p.80), Deputy Chairman of the Committee on Education and Science of the lower chamber
Russian parliament, State Duma, and an advocate for the rights of individuals with disabilities. The two
federal laws that regulate education of children with disabilities are the law On Education (1992) and
the law On Social Protection of the Disabled in Russian Federation (1995).

The law On Education announces the principle of accessibility and adaptability of the educational
system to students’ levels of development and individual characteristics (article 2). It guarantees
education regardless of one’s state of health (article 5.1), access to all levels of education free of charge
(article 5.3), partial or full coverage of educational expenses of those who require social support (article
5.5), and provision of the necessary special education to all citizens with disabilities (article 5.6). The
law also protects non-discriminatory enrollment in educational institutions on all levels (article 16).

This law further describes students’ rights to receive education within the state educational standards
and in accordance with an individual educational plan, if such is required (article 50.4). Educational
authorities are responsible for establishment of special education institutions (classes, groups) where
students can be placed only upon agreement of their parents (caregivers) and upon the
recommendations of a psycho-medical-pedagogical commission (PMPC) (article 50.10). Students can
also transfer from one educational institution into another of a similar educational level upon agreement
of such institution (article 50.19).

The law also clearly states that parents (caregivers) have the right to choose the educational institution
for their children, protect children’s educational rights and interests, and participate in governance of an
educational institution (article 52). It also expresses commitment to a public atmosphere valuing
diversity and an integrative character of education (article 14).

The law On Social Protection of the Disabled addresses such important issues as development of an
individual plan of rehabilitation with recommendations mandatory for educational institutions (article
11), provision of a free access environment (article 15), and education of children with severe
disabilities in regular education settings with provision of necessary assistive conditions (articles 18




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and 19). Application of this law, however, is limited only to children with severe disabilities, not all
children with disabilities. In addition, these provisions are rarely implemented in schools.

Describing current legislation, Kotova and Koloskov (2005) characterized it as neither impeding nor
facilitating inclusion. Indeed, the examination of the law On Education shows that while it emphasizes
the adaptability of the educational system to the needs of students and ensures provision of appropriate
education to all citizens; it lacks emphasis and specifics about education in integrative and inclusive
settings. The law On Social Protection of the Disabled does regulate important aspects of education in
special and regular settings. This law, however, is limited to children with severe disabilities only.
Many advocates of integration and inclusion believe that the two laws are not comprehensive enough to
address all aspects of education of children with disabilities. Though limited these laws serve as
foundation to protect educational rights of children with disabilities.

Well-defined legislation is certainly needed if the declared commitment to integration and inclusion is
to be translated into practice. Yet, several attempts to pass the On Education of Children with
Disabilities (Special Education) Bill failed. Despite the positive feedback on the bill from national and
international experts and its passing by both houses of parliament twice, in 1996 and 1999, the bill was
twice rejected by Russian government and removed from consideration in 2004 (Smolin, 2007). The
Committee on Science and Education of the lower chamber of Russian parliament, State Duma, was
charged with the task of developing amendments to the law On Education. Although the amendments
received positive feedback, the possibility of passing them is not clear yet (Smolin, 2007).

The lack of clearly formulated legislation is exacerbated by the non-implementation of the existing law.
According to Smolin, the principal difficulty in Russia is not the formulation of the laws…but their
enforcement (it is more accurately to say their non-implementation) (as cited in Racheotes, 1997,
Conclusion section, para 2). A similar idea was expressed by Human Rights Commissioner Lukin. In
his 2006 report On the observance of rights of children with severe disabilities in Russian Federation,
he pointed out that unsatisfactory implementation of the existing laws is the main cause of violations of
children with severe disabilities right to live in a family, the right to education, and the right to
rehabilitation.

Many non-governmental organizations provide legal assistance on how to navigate existing laws in
order to gain access to educational resources of the parents' choosing. This assistance, however, is
limited only to those who have knowledge of existing resources, a larger network of social support,
and, not less important, stable access to communication facilities such as phone lines and the
Internet. A single, not-working mother in the north of Russia who is battling to survive on a meager
pension for a child’s disability might face a tremendous challenge in fighting her way to send her child
to a regular school (Regnum Information Agency, 2008). Therefore, the problems that the bill on
special education was designed to address remain among the most pressing and essential problems in
the educational landscape of Russia. Despite the challenges, a variety of practices has developed in an
attempt to provide educational opportunities in less segregated settings.

Integration and Inclusion in Practice
Current integration and inclusion practices are diverse. Some of them represent top-down efforts to
narrow the gap between special and regular education settings while others are examples of bottom-up
initiatives. The top-down initiatives are evident in the establishment of preschools (nurseries and
kindergartens) of the combined type. Such institutions enroll children of age two through seven and can
offer a variety of educational settings, including: (1) self-contained special education groups, (2) mixed
groups attended by regular and special education children; and (3) regular groups. Self-contained and
mixed groups are based on a disability category, have a lower than regular groups teacher- student
ratio, and have a special education teacher and other professionals on staff. The ratio of children with
disabilities and their normally developing peers in mixed groups varies and depends on children’s age
and category. For example, it is 2:8 in a nursery and 3:8 in a kindergarten group attended by deaf
children or 6:10 in a nursery and 6:12 in a kindergarten group for children with physical disabilities
(Ministry of Education of Russian Federation, 2002b). Children in mixed groups are pulled out for
special education group and individual work. They have individual educational plans and in the end of
each year a psycho-pedagogical and medical evaluation determines the placement of the child for the
next year. Children whose developmental level is close to the level of their normally developing peers
can also attend regular groups and be pulled out for special education services. One preschool of the
combined type can have groups serving children with different disabilities.



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The number of preschools of the combined type has been growing. They comprise 16.4% of all
preschool educational institutions and have enrollment of 25-30% of preschool population
(Scherbakova, 2009). To compare, special preschools make up 3.7% of all preschool educational
institutions and are attended by 3% of children (Scherbakova, 2009). It is not clear, however, how
many children with disabilities attend preschools of the combined type and how many of them are
placed in different types of integrative settings. Organization of education in these institutions is
strongly influenced by a special education model when placement is determined by a disability
category and the level of child’s development. These institutions, however, increase access to special
education services and provide some integration of children with disabilities, although the degree of
integration varies.

The development of preschools of the combined type is supported by the position of the Institute of
Correctional Pedagogy of the Russian Academy of Science. The experts of the institute defined the
current period of special education as a transitional one (Malofeev, 2007). These experts believe that
all children can benefit from integration but they do not support full inclusion. While educational
institutions of the combined type are popular on the preschool level, the development of schools of the
combined type is only in its beginning.

The bottom-up initiatives are diverse in their scope, organizational forms, educational practices, and
underlying assumptions. There are many reports on implementation of integration or inclusion in
individual schools; there are also some regional initiatives that effect larger population of children. An
important role in the development of inclusive schools and the support of bottom-up initiatives belongs
to non-governmental organizations. The 2006 report of the Human Rights Commissioner Lukin
provided a list of 65 non-governmental organizations that offer pedagogical services to children with
disabilities. One such organization is a non-governmental organization Perspektiva, a leader in
inclusive schools movement. It has implemented over 50 projects to change public opinion about
people with disabilities, raise awareness about disability issues, and promote inclusive education and
full access to mainstream employment. For example, the goal of one of its projects, The Protection of
the Human and Legal Rights of Russians with Disabilities: Access to Education Project (2003-2006)
was to create a network of different entities - non-governmental organizations, local authorities,
businesses, and educational institutions to promote equal access to education and, above all, inclusive
education. One of the essential components of the project was a legal assistance for people with
disabilities and their families to gain access to education. As a result, many parents became active
advocates of their children’s rights.

Another project Inclusive Education Week, gathered educators from all over the country to discuss the
practices and challenges of inclusion. Perspektiva was the initiator of one of the first inclusive schools
in Moscow that opened its doors to children with disabilities in 2005. The measures that transformed a
regular school into an inclusive one included arranging conditions for free access environments,
conducting disability awareness training, organizing teachers’ professional development, and raising
parents’ awareness on educational rights of their children. Many activists of the organization are
people with disabilities who have first hand experiences of overcoming physical, social, and
psychological barriers on their ways to inclusion into society.

As a result of local initiatives and activities of NGOs, the movement towards inclusive schools has
been steadily growing. In 2008 eleven regions had schools that were implementing inclusive education
(Ivaylova, 2008). An important role in the inclusion movement is played by For Education for All, a
national coalition of non-governmental organizations in twenty five regions formed as a result of
several Perspektiva’s projects. One of its initiatives called state authorities to accept the following
measures to support inclusive schools: (1) development of legislation supportive of inclusive education;
(2) preparation of qualified pedagogical cadres; (3) development of socio-psychological and
environmental conditions for inclusion; and (4) development and adoption of the strategy on
implementation of inclusive education. The last measure particularly emphasizes the need to develop a
subprogram in inclusive education in the national program Education with clear stages and timelines of
its implementation.

It is important to note that there is a diversity of views on what constitutes the best educational
environment for children with disabilities among representatives of non-governmental organizations as
well. For example, the pedagogues of the Center for Curative Pedagogics, one of the first non-
governmental organizations to offer psychological and educational services to children with



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disabilities, believe that the road to full inclusion may pass through several integrative settings
(Gerasimenko & Dimenstein, 2000). Such environments should bring out children’s strengths and
create conditions for developing skills and competencies necessary for a further transition to
environments of higher educational and social complexity. Many students of the Center have taken
such a path and made progress from being labeled uneducable to students of regular schools.
Dimenstein and Larikova (2008) agree with the proponents of full inclusion that each child has to
develop in an environment of the high educational complexity. The requirement of high complexity,
however, does not necessarily mean an environment of a regular school from the start.

The examination of the integration and inclusion initiatives reveals a diversity of approaches and
demonstrates that the discussion about an appropriate educational environment for children with
disabilities has become a part of the Russian educational discourse. The examination of the initiatives
also shows that more teachers and educators get involved in implementation of integration and
inclusion in their schools. The growing bottom-up movement is an example of the strengthened sense
of self-determination and social activity of Russian people. Development of integration and inclusion
initiatives, therefore, also reveals important social transformations in the Russian society.
Integration and Inclusion as Examples of Social Transformations

Zaslavskaya (2006), a Russian sociologist, described the Soviet society on the eve of reforms of the
1980s and 1990s by a means of three societal characteristics - its institutional structure, group structure,
and its human potential. In Zaslavskaya’s opinion, it was the low level of the activity component of
human potential that hindered further modernization of the Soviet state and finally led to its collapse.
She described it,
          The roots of its [Soviet system] collapse lay in the inappropriately low rating of the
          role of the human factor…The disregard of, indifference toward, and even contempt
          for the ‘little man’… fundamentally conflicted with trends in world development at
          the end of the second millennium. For this reason, one of the most important tasks of
          perestroika and the reforms that came in its wake was to create the conditions
          necessary for more effective use of the country’s human potential and, most
          important to improve its cultural and activity components. It was the kind of task that
          could not be accomplished by technical or organizational means; the way to
          accomplish it had to be through changing the social structure of society, through
          liberating and activating the human personality, through creating conditions
          necessary for raising people’s levels of education and qualifications and putting to
          use the creative strengths of the majority of citizens And these things, in turn, would
          require the liberalization of the basic economic institutions and the democratization
          of social and political relations. (p. 13)
The examples of the integration and inclusion movement discussed above demonstrate the creative
strengths put into construction of new forms of education of children with disabilities. Needless to say,
a lot needs to be done to ensure that all children have access to quality education of their parents’
choosing nationwide. A growing number of schools and preschools that offer integrative and inclusive
forms of education, however, prove that more educators and parents are taking responsibility for the
future of their children.

The organization of new forms of education brings to attention another concern – the attitudes of the
society towards individuals with disabilities. Many express an opinion that integration and inclusion are
not possible until the larger society changes its perception of and the attitude towards people with
disabilities. It is true that bringing a child with a disability into a regular classroom is a delicate process
which requires tact and much work. Educational environments other than a regular classroom, as
intermediate and more sensitive to child’s needs, should also be considered in planning children’s
educational trajectories. Changes in attitudes, however, are not possible without lived experiences of
integration and inclusion. The research of Yarskaya-Smirnova and Loshakova (2003) supports this
position. In a study of social attitudes towards students with disabilities they found that children, who
had personal experiences of interaction with a child or an adult with disabilities, were more positive
about learning together with them.

The practices of integration and inclusion raise another important question - the attitudes of the society
towards diversity. Russian education honors academic achievement and individual abilities. While such
an attitude should be well respected, it is essential to remember that no truly democratic society can be
created until the uniqueness of each individual is valued above one’s place on an academic ladder. The



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movement of integration and inclusion gives Russia a chance to re-evaluate its system of values and to
learn to respect and to respond to the needs of each child or adult regardless of his/her achievement or
status.

Conclusion
There is a Russian expression dorogy osilit idushiy. Its literal translation would be the one who tries
will succeed in walking the road or, shorter, the one who tries succeeds. Indeed, implementation of
innovations can be compared to a journey. It starts with hopes and excitement but is also full of
uncertainties and unexpected turns. More importantly, a journey may call for re-evaluation of one’s
values and one is not the same at the end as one was in the beginning.

The examination of educational and legal variables of the Russian context demonstrates that the
integration and inclusion movement is influenced by different forces. On the one hand, the increased
power of regional and school authorities, adoption of international documents, and the passing of
national laws that acknowledge the right of children with disabilities on education in regular settings
and support parents’ rights are among the forces that support integration and inclusion. On the other
hand, the lack of qualified teachers’ cadres, scarce financial resources, the absence of respective
legislation, and non-implementation of the existing laws are the forces that impede development of the
initiatives. Despite the challenges more non-governmental organizations and individual schools are
supporting inclusive practices and the formal system has started to change too. These innovations,
however, are sporadic and changes take place in challenging conditions which impede integration and
inclusion or, in some cases, lead to spontaneous practices and children’s needs remain unmet even in
inclusive settings. It is evident that the synergy between the state and individuals are necessary to work
out and implement educational policies that guarantee access to quality education of parents’ choosing
for all children.

The study also revealed that the integration and inclusion movement had uncovered the human
potential of Russian people and at the same time called for further re-evaluation of their belief system.
Over time, one can evaluate the success of integration and inclusion in Russia not only by a number of
children who receive education in regular schools, but by a societal appreciation of human diversity
and schools’ ability to respond to educational needs of all children. This is a change worth
struggling for and this is a road worth walking.

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